Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chips on their shoulders

COMING ON THE HEELS of an extravagant celebration in the Philippine internet-age — aptly, of Imeldific proportions replete with the illusions of past grandeur, of heaps of greetings and hallow wishes by friends-turned-foes-turned-friends again, and of fireworks that accompanied Manila's lifestyle headliners at Imelda Marcos' 80th birthday party — were reminders that she cannot be faulted for one time supporting, quote, The Arts, unquote, in the midst of corruption and third-world poverty, among others.

That Imelda bragged about her unstoppable court cases at the party — around 900 as of last public account since 1991 — and seemed to relish just that kind of achievement tells me that, while she wants to remain controversial, she seems to have made some kind of peace with the past. She does not take herself too seriously, too, and, conversely, cannot be taken so.

For good or bad, she always makes news of herself in an amusing way, and in my observation, never much faulted others for her or their family's [mis]fortunes but solely unto herself. Rather, she always says that she is either misunderstood and easily judged or is a fighter with a cause that never gets acknowledged; or that she simply is who she is, ad infinitum.

If she has any grievance of the past, at 80 years old, she certainly is carrying it out in style.

Twin quinquagenarians speak

This cannot be said of two men in the local entertainment scene also making some buzz recently. Although not as obscure as the word "quinquagenarian," these two men, Joey de Leon and Freddie Aguilar, have chosen to come out and reveal the biggest chips on their shoulders to the public. And my, are they big, burdensome and ugly.

Joey de Leon, a self-proclaimed comic whose sense of humor is scathing at best, and seems to delight in making fun of others' physical appearance, resorts to name-calling and can let loose remarks bordering on chauvinism, was one-third of the Tito, Vic and Joey comedy trio. I can say as much that I did enjoy some of their recorded humor from their "Tough Hits" days in the late 70s. Who doesn't like some moments of amusement anyway?

Joey, I think, was a good choice to host a late-afternoon weekend gossip show because he could provide a balance to some highly charged and controversial segments. I've seen him do this several times and this is where he can call upon his being a comic at best.

In most cases, however, he comes off as a know-it-all and intolerant host on his noontime show, sometimes even unforgiving, like when contestants fail to give an answer to common trivial questions and he allows his disappointments to come through.

Has he forgotten that he constantly deals with a sector of society that grew up with their shallow antics and foolery day after day for the past 30 years? Was he expecting that all of their audience picked up useful insights to add to their knowledge, quality of life or skills every lunch time? They may have picked up dated phrases of insults or rehashed jokes once in a while, and I can't take credit away from him for that.

Yeah he can be funny. He actually is, sometimes, and can be quick on the draw and witty. But a genius he is not, although I've read comments in the past about his being a misunderstood artiste, especially in personal pursuits like painting and song writing that are a little out of place in the traditional sense, especially in the norms of the entertainment world which he's been part of for decades.

Joey also likes sarcasm. A lot. And he particularly likes throwing a comment or two at competitors because he relishes being part of the network wars than being above it. Too bad, I may have been expecting much more from him.

One day in August 2008, Joey de Leon, who I wasn't aware was also columnist of a broadsheet, waged a word war against his paper because of a published report in the paper's tabloid that said their show was a flop in a US tour.

The next thing I knew he was a regular at another paper, the Philippine Star, one of the papers I subscribe to. I never did read his columns except one, I think: a year-end recap.

Unfair competition
My attention was called again to his column recently. Written in some kind of verse like that recap article, it was his Michael Jackson tribute that alluded strongly to Charice Pempengco (a "nuno na sinugaling," he wrote: a lying dwarf) as lying about being approached to guest in Michael Jackson's London shows and that she would have been rehearsing with him after her Manila concert.

While this is largely unconfirmed from Charice's US management but by her alone from a news segment, the meat of the matter is Charice is identified with the network that is in fierce competition with Joey's. And while Joey is entitled to his opinion on the recent recognition Charice has been getting abroad, I think picking on a minor like Charice is one big low blow.

Joey has already made a name for himself in entertainment. The once bad and taunting young man is now father to children much older than Charice. He, too, is a grandfather now; someone who refuses to grow up and grow old. The grandfather, therefore, picked on a young woman obviously extremely talented, lucky and barely of legal age. This is a one-sided confrontation and a much more revealing affirmation of the kind of person Joey de Leon may additionally be perceived as: a coward in using allusion, and a bully.

From what he just wrote, he looks like he is going to age green with envy, bowed and bended by his anger and vindictiveness, without once thinking that by adding fuel to the network fire fight at every opportunity, he is not at all helping the industry's redemption from mediocrity but will drag it to the level of cheap thrills and trash, an environment he seems to never want to get out of.

And Freddie....
He needs no introduction.

Freddie's recent comments on Charice, Arnel Pineda and just about every overseas Filipino entertainer abroad who sing cover songs are words of an angry man growling his way to senescence.

Does he not understand that the world turns, much like how day turns into night as he may have experienced working towards the opening of his new bar from where he made his statements?

Does he not agree that Charice, Arnel, Leah Salonga, Apl de Ap and many unnamed Filipinos abroad who have the gift of singing and are appreciated for it are in a much better position to bring a good name to the Philippines than fugitives and money launderers, self-centered politicians and citizens who filth the air?

Is it their fault, these singers, that they don't share his writing talents but make the most of what they have — plus a little luck — anyhow? Or that foreigners recognize their talents in spite of the kind of songs they sing because the local handlers and music industry moguls are too busy building up non-talents, the networks are putting all their resources to their stupid rivalry and the record labels are barely surviving?

Or was Freddie not paid royalty by Charice's producers for "Anak" when she and Kuh Ledesma sang it so well at Charice's concert two Saturdays ago?

Has "Anak"'s accomplishments been ever taken away from him at any point? No. No one has taken away the stature of "Anak" in the local Filipino music scene. It may have, however, faded from the memory of record producers, radio station owners and a generation that listened to newer sound and responded to messages that speak to it.

Has he done much, to the public's knowledge, about curbing or denouncing local music piracy? And I mean launched something so massive, given his legendary status, to call upon all music loving Filipinos across all ages and genres — including the YouTube savvy, hip-hopping, iPod-carrying youth — to strongly rally behind his name to such a cause?

What is going on with him and Joey? We're already choking from all the crabiness, engulfed in political mire that exist in all corners of our archipelago that a whiff of fresh air is enough to get us through sometimes. No one has monopoly over nationalism, especially in the age of information.

And what do they know about the shared pride these talents give our laborers in the Middle East, the domestic helpers, engineers and nurses elsewhere in the world, they who have been bestowed some kind of dignity and respect by the new crop of "international singing sensations," no matter how trivial, how occasional? A sort of recognition that Filipinos are much more than just being worthy of domestic chores or being all greased up and grimy in the deserts.

Has he overlooked the fact that they, too, Charice, Arnel, Leah Salonga (although unmentioned by Freddie), et al. have remained Filipinos not just by citizenship but by choice, and are, like any "OFW," overseas Filipino workers themselves who seized the opportunities that came knocking at their doors and continue to do their best to put food on their tables, send relatives to school, at the same time inspiring others, one way or other, with honor?

If any of them, famous or unnamed singers, bring shame to our country in any way like how dictators and opportunists once did and continue to do, by all means, these men can throw everything at them including the sink, the toilet humor and their burdens.

Freddie and Joey should get real and wake up to a different time. Freddie Aguilar has had his and no one can take that away from him. Let the others shine in theirs.



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